“There is no one definition for a tough guy. He’s not necessarily a guy for one thing. And he doesn’t have to look physically tough, although it doesn’t hurt. He doesn’t even have to have a mustache. What he does consistently have is composure—an ability to react and handle any situation.” – Popular Mechanics, May 2016, pg 59.
Indiana Jones, Iron Man, Gus, Doc Holiday; they were all men who didn’t sweat and didn’t fade in the stretch. They were calm, cool, and collected. Indiana Jones never even lost his hat. In studying these characters, there was no situation too big, no challenge to great, and no enemy to intimidating for them to rise to the occasion with composure.
Composure is what allows the bullfighter to take pictures with a four year old before he puts his life on the line saving a cowboy. Composure is what gives the bull rider at the NFR the ability to laugh behind the chutes seconds before putting his rope on and trust his ability on a million dollar ride. Composure is what allows the cowboy, through narrowed eyes, to stare into a thunderstorm on the horizon and kick his horse up to continue work. Composure is what keeps him driving headlong into a blizzard to find a calf.
Composure is great and makes tough men…and composure can deaden a man.
David was composed, but not always…and that made him a man after God’s heart.
He was composed in taking Jerusalem. It wasn’t a massive complex, it had thick walls, and it was surrounded by valleys. Both Judah and Benjamin had been charged by Joshua to take the city (Josh 15.63 and 18.28) and in 400 years they hadn’t accomplished it. The security of the city wasn’t in question. The Jebusites claimed “even the blind and the lame can ward off attackers.” (2 Sam 5.6) A composed David, challenged his men and provided direction. (2 Sam 5.8) Probably using Warren’s shaft, a tunnel leading from the spring into the walls, David’s men took the city.
He was composed in planning the city. The Jebusite city was a small hilltop, but David turned it into God’s city. He built up the terraces around the city providing a foundation to build a city worthy of bearing God’s name and housing God’s people. He built walls, houses, a palace, and everything they needed. David was leading his people to new and great heights and he did it all composed.
He was composed defeating the Philistines. His former pseudo-countrymen, the Philistines, heard that David had taken the throne and they marched out to get him. (2 Sam 5.17) Twice they met the forces of Israel in the Valley of Rephaim (2 Sam 5.18, 22) and twice David defeated them after inquiring of God. The composure, the presence of mind to talk with God, was something that had been lacking in a King. (1 Chronicles 13.3)
David had it all together. He was a tough guy. Composed at all times; until he worships. After bringing the Ark of God into Jerusalem, David said this to Michal describing the event:
“It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel–I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6.21-22)
It would probably help to know what led up to this. The Israelites hadn’t inquired of the Lord during the reign of Saul, through the Ark (1 Chron. 13.3), and they all thought it would be a good idea to get the ark into the City of David for protection, for illumination, and for wisdom. Two men were guiding the cart that held the ark (2 Sam. 6.3-4; 1 Chron. 13.7) a clear violation of how the ark was supposed to be transported. (Num. 4.15) When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah trying to keep the ark from falling, reached out his hand and steadied it. The anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah for this irreverent act. There Uzzah fell and died. David was angry and afraid legitimately. They stopped the procession and the ark rested in the house of Obed-Edom for three months. (2 Sam 6.6-11; 1 Chron. 13.1-14)
When the task of bringing the ark to Jerusalem was resumed, David wanted to do it right. First Chronicles 15 shows the dedication to following the instructions of Moses.
David show’s his composure in how he prepares for this entrance. David’s ritual, his kingship, his planning was so controlled, but his worship was so…not.
He is “dancing with all his might” (2 Sam 6.14); shouted and trumpeted (15). He lept and danced (16). This bothered his wife, Michal. She, having a King for a father, knew exactly how kings should act and this was not how King’s acted. King’s keep it all together. Sound’s familiar. Men keep it all together. Never let emotion show. Excitement (outside of an athletic achievement) is frowned upon. Even raising a hand in worship makes my stomach turn. Show what I am I to learn from David’s example? Composure can kill a life of worship. A man after God’s heart knows when to let it go.
David laughedm, alot. The hebrew word translated in the NIV as “I will celebrate” in 1 Samuel 6.21, is translated other places “laughs” [hb. sachaq]. In this passage it is in the Piel stem, which intensifies the word. Instead of a chuckle, it is a full belly laugh. You laugh at a joke: “A neutrino walks into a bar and asks what it costs for a drink. Bartender says ‘for you, no charge!’” But you tear-up with laughter at a dad getting racked with a wiffle ball on America’s funniest home videos.See the difference? David is “celebrating” and “laughing” uncontrollably. So much of David’s worship up to this point has taken place surrounded by tragedy. When things are falling apart, David turns to God. From the valleys, David’s trials turn to worship.. Now on the mountain top, his laughter also turns to worship. We laugh from joy, entertainment, and excitement. The King is experiencing them all at one and it overflows in the form of celebration and laughter.
David became undignified [hb. Qalal] as he worshiped. This verb is used in the reflexive tense, called the niphal in hebrew. It indicates that the subject it doing it themselves. The hebrew word means to “think little” of something. Ahab, the most evil King of Israel, “thought little” of the sins of Jeroboam, arguable the second most evil King of Israel. (1 Kings 16.31) This word carries with it the idea of the ease of a task as well. It was “easy” and “simple” for God to send rain during a drought or move a shadow on some steps (2 Kings 3.18; 20.10). God is able, without much trouble, to do amazing things. So in our passage, David is “making himself little” and “thinking of himself simply”. He is the King, with an army at his right hand, a people behind him, and a bright future ahead, but he makes himself simple. That’s not what a King does.
David will be humiliated [hb. Saphal] in his own eyes. Mostly this word is translated “lowly”. Lowliness is praised in wisdom literature.
- Job 5:11: “The lowly he sets on high and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”
- Psalm 138.6: “Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly.”
- Proverbs 16.19: “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”
- Proverbs 29.23: “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”
- Matthew 5.3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- Matthew 5.5: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Surprised by the last two? Jesus begins his Sermon on the mount with some wisdom literature and it is about the lowly. Paul said all his life is rubbish (Phil 3.7ff); John said “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3.30); Jesus said “Glorify me so that I can return glory to you.” (Jn 17.1) Here David declares that in his humiliation, he will worship.
These are not qualities of a man keeping it together: Uncontrollable laughter and celebration; humiliation, undignified dancing…or is it?
A man after God’s heart is a man capable of letting himself go, knowing that his strength, power, and identity come from God and God alone. David was able to lose composure in worship because he knew where his strength and his power came. God had given him all that he had, so he didn’t have to project an image, hold it all together, and conceal his heart. David could lose composure because God never does. God holds it all together, not David. We can’t keep the mask of composure on forever, David knew when and to whom he could lose it too.